Breathing is a natural function for all of us. However, when we start swimming, breathing becomes too much of a difficulty. In order to grab even just a single breath of air, we have to coordinate our entire bodily functions.
No doubt, swimming is the most physically demanding aerobic activity there is – and it’s all due to the simple reason that you have to find time to breathe. Usually, we feel like choking or gulping water rather than getting a nice and relaxed breath. Did you know that around 90% of the challenge that a novice swimmer have to face is to learn how to breathe when swimming?
By learning proper breathing techniques while swimming, you can achieve an even longer and more relaxed stroke. But how is it done? Here are some tips how:
1. Keep Your Face in the Water
The first step you need to take into account is to keep your face in the water. The reason is simple: swimming with your face out of the water will cause your legs and hips to drop. With such position, swimming will become a lot harder due to an increase in resistance.
There are a few tricks you can employ to achieve this. Make sure you wear comfortable swimming goggles. Focus your eyes at the bottom of the pool. Whenever you feel a bit anxious while doing so, don’t forget to take breaks every once in a while. Moreover, swimming without proper goggles can cause water to get into your eyes, making you nearly blind and possibly triggering anxiety.
2. Keep Calm and Relaxed
The most important thing you have to keep in mind to properly breathe while swimming is to relax your muscles, especially the ones in your face, jaw, mouth, and neck. Swimmers who tend to tense their muscles while swimming is actually holding their breath underwater. As a result, they are forced to exhale and inhale above water at the same time.
3. Breathe in Rhythm
Once you’re comfortable with your face in the water, you have to figure out the proper breathing technique. The moment your face is in the water, make sure to slightly open your mouth and allow a small amount of air to flow out. There are swimmers who exhale through their mouth and nose, and some exhale only through their mouth. If you are one of those who exhales only using their mouth, it would be a good idea to use a nose plug to become more comfortable. Make sure you blow air out slowly, as doing it fast will lead to a shortage of air upon your next inhalation. By slowly exhaling, you can be aware of any presence of facial tension.
The problem with novice swimmers is that they tend to hold their breath underwater then exhale and inhale very quickly. This could lead to a poor and shallow breath which causes them to catch a few deep breaths. During continuous strokes where your head is submerged, don’t forget to exhale once your face is in the water. This will allow you to empty your lungs as you lift your head to breathe again. As your mouth clears the water, make sure you inhale quickly. Keep it as a constant rhythm and make sure to follow through.
4. Choose a Comfortable Breathing Pattern
There are two breathing patterns you can choose from in a freestyle swimming: single-sided and bilateral breathing. In a single-sided pattern, you’re essentially breathing on the same side. Meanwhile, bilateral breathing would mean alternating your body position and breathing between left and right, and so on. Once you find a comfortable breathing pattern, you’ll find that using a bilateral or three-stroke breathing pattern comes with a few advantages. First, it allows you to rotate evenly on both sides. Second, it evens out your stroke. Third, it reduces the resistance you’re producing in the water.
However, while it has its good sides, there are a few disadvantages as well. Mainly, the interval between breaths is increased by 50% as compared to a single-sided pattern. This could mean you’ll be suffering from a huge decline in oxygen flow as you swim.
On the other hand, a single-sided breathing pattern tends to create a huge imbalance on one side. This means that as one side gets stronger, you’ll end up going off course. But then again, the advantage of this breathing technique is that you have a higher oxygen flow, which is a good thing if you want to swim fast.
One of the biggest challenges you’re going to face when learning how to breathe underwater is to learn proper breathing patterns. Make sure not to rush things, as mastering a breathing pattern normally takes a lot of time and effort. You can use a waterproof fitness tracker to track your progress.
Basic Breathing Drills
Below are the basic breathing drills you can follow in order to master the art of breathing while swimming. Don’t forget to always wear protective goggles as you practice these drills.
- As you enter shallow water, try holding your breath then get your head under water. Remain in that position for a few seconds before rising up.
- This is the same as the first drill, except that this time, you have to exhale underwater using your nose.
- After following the second part, exhale using both your mouth and nose.
- While you’re in shallow water, let the water surface level with the gap between your nose and mouth. Try to inhale above water through your nose and exhale underwater using your mouth.
- Now keep your face in the water and start blowing bubbles using your mouth, nose, or both. While holding onto the edge of the pool, attain a horizontal position while keeping your face in the water. You can do so by using a series of relaxed kicks.
Now that you’ve learned how to breathe when swimming, it’s about time to test it out. The key here is to maintain your composure and master a breathing pattern you’re most comfortable with. Once you do, swimming will just become a piece of cake.